How Control of Fire Changed Hunting

Session Date: 
Mar 2, 2018

When meat first became a nutritionally significant food item for Homo it is classically regarded as having been eaten raw. In support, other primates eat meat raw; and archaeological signals of hunting long precede confident evidence of fire control. However two kinds of problems suggest that any large role for meat-eating by early Homo would have depended on their cooking their food, especially plant foods. First, since the meat products of tropical animals are relatively protein-rich and fat-poor, starch-rich plants must have remained an important component of the diet; but the digestive anatomy of early Homo indicates that starch-rich plants could not have provided adequate energy without being cooked. Second, the time taken to chew foods if they were eaten raw would have been so large as to prevent significant effort being put into hunting (or scavenging). Ways to reconcile the conflicting evidence include the idea that fat-rich marrow and brains were especially important in the diets of Homo erectus.

File 2018_03_02_09_Wrangham-Web.mp497.18 MB